Two years ago, Swedish alt-pop outfit Wildhart released their debut EP, the aptly titled EP1, which was a dreamy and stirring effort. Now reduced from a trio to just Ylva Holmdahl (vocals) and Kiwi Berg (synthesizers), the duo have transformed themselves. As oppose to the ethereal and cosmic nature of their first record, Caught In A Fisheye is the end of the journey. It is the other side of the black hole, where the unknown and unexpected are to be discovered. And it is imaginative, stunning, and at times a bit of a mind warp.

“Over and Over” commences Wildhart’s journey into the new musical frontier. Whirling synths collide with pulsating beats, Holmdahl’s angelic vocals, and a siren-like guitar stream to create the fleeting feeling of being lost in space. Holmdahl’s lyrics possess a similar vibe, but she’s lost herself and her identity in the current world. A world that she no longer recognizes and, as such, she no longer knows who she is. She has fallen into a place that is like The Twilight Zone.

Even when the duo appear to set a straight trajectory, they unexpected detour, as is the case with “Every Touch”. Featuring fellow Swedish innovator, Nadir Nair, the song is simultaneously ethereal and cathartic. The intro is dazzling, but then it gives way to harsh, over-driven synths before returning to a lush soundscape. The varied approach mirrors the uncertainty in the protagonist’s words, who is uncertain if she should “slip further into the dark” with this unknown entity. It’s a fairy tale for the post-modern world.

“And you took my hand, and I got lost inside your hand.
Now I try to mesmerize it.
Every touch, every word.
Everything, everything.”

The sultry “New Beginning” more closely resembles Wildhart’s first record. It is calm, enchanting, and reaches breathtaking levels, if not heavenly heights. Holmdahl’s vocals are soothing and radiant, and they perfectly deliver the optimistic message that second chances are possible. Berg’s minimalist production, meanwhile, is stunning, as he delivers a calm serenity before amplifying the synths and beats to create a sense we are free-falling through the black hole.

“Anthem”, meanwhile, is seductive in a Blade Runner fashion. As Berg’s production work hums and buzzes in the background, Holmdahl’s mechanical vocals are akin to that of a replicant. She has been programmed to pleasure us, but she then finds life. She finds her own voice, and she has no choice but to quit. The song, however, is more than just a futuristic odyssey. Its message applies to the present day and women’s status in many societies.

The penultimate track, “Love”, is simply gorgeous. Minimalist but brilliantly executed, it is a love song that redefines the love song. The composition is superb, particularly the final 90 seconds that feature a solemn piano arrangement. Holmdahl’s voice, meanwhile, aches and yearns in desperation, as she wishes to make amends. To fix what went wrong. The entire track is reminiscent of the stunning ballads that fellow Swedish duo Wy created last year.

“Take me back in.
I will love you, I will love you.
Take me back in (take me back).
I guess we’re done,
But I can’t stop dreaming about you all day long.
I can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t think straight.
I want to hold you, want you to unfold me, even though it hurts.

The finale, “…”, is the awakening from the long slumber or regaining one’s consciousness after surviving the trip through the black hole. It is the most experimental of the six songs. The atmosphere merges call, oceanic vibes with deep, spatial tones, which could be the music coming from the depths of Pandora’s great seas (a reference to Avatar). Holmdahl’s voice off is distant. This time, however, she is our guide that directs us through the mass of uncertainty, asking us if we have found what we desire. Whether the journey has delivered on its promises. Although time will only tell if things will indeed get better or whether we can travel to faraway places, Wildhart has offered a temporary escape from the current chaos with Caught In A Fisheye. An escape that is intriguing, exciting, and mesmerizing.

Stream the EP on Spotify.

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